The Commissioner is on the case, and good for him. Remember that he follows the Bud Selig era, widely criticized for its passive approach until problems became too visible to ignore. Manfred is getting out in front of this, promising to reach a decision before Opening Day.
This all started back on October 24, 2014, when Joe Maddon ended a 9-year relationship with the Tampa Bay Rays and opted out of his contract. He was an institution with the Rays, being only the fourth manager in franchise history, and having more years managing than the rest combine. He was certainly within his rights to opt out, but what happened next has drawn attention from all corners of baseball. On October 30 – less than a week later – the Cubs fired manager Rick Renteria and signed Maddon as their new manager. The Cubs celebrated, the Rays screamed, and the rest of baseball raised their eyebrows.
This drama has all the elements of a political scandal. The Rays are claiming that the Cubs engaged Maddon while he was still under contract, which is the underpinning of the tampering charges. Furthermore, they claim they have proof. Proof, if it exists, would not be hard to come by. They haven’t yet announced what their proof is, but as Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted this week, “The Rays insist they have proof the Cubs tampered. Stay tuned.” It should be interesting once it comes out. Who knows – maybe they were dumb enough to send a message to Maddon’s work email.
Cubs General Manager Theo Epstein donned his defense attorney posture and said that there is no basis for these accusations. "It's just wholly inaccurate, there's nothing to it." Epstein said when the story first broke. There is no proof of misconduct, this will come out in the process, we look forward to our day in court, yada yada yada. We have all watched Law & Order. Nevertheless, Epstein may actually have something to worry about here.
Just the fact that this investigation continues, and the fact that Commissioner Manfred explicitly stated that it is not over, tells us that there is probably something to these charges. Some have speculated that the only thing being discussed is what the Cubs penalty is going to be. Will Maddon have to serve a suspension? Are there fines involved?
The statement that this will be concluded by Opening Day tells me that if the Cubs are found to have tampered in this case, they’ll start their punished with the start of the season. Not the way the Cubs envisioned starting 2015. But as Manfred is establishing himself in his new position, showing everyone who’s boss, he may end up being the big winner here.
More to come ….
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row
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